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Avs-Canadiens Game 44 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
January 16, 2024

Studs

The stars

You can’t ask for too much more from Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar. Makar had the big night with three points while the other two “only” mustered one, but they weren’t on the same goal. They spread it out, as did Jonathan Drouin and Ross Colton, who also each had a point tonight.

Add in “other” top player Devon Toews, who tied the game with a third-period goal, and you have your top four forwards and top defensive pairing all producing points and strong shot metrics along the way.

They scored three goals. They drove play. What more do you really want from these guys? It certainly wasn’t perfect, as evidenced by MacKinnon giving up on the second goal because he thought he was about to be called for a penalty (he should have been) or Rantanen taking a needless offensive-zone penalty in the third period of a tie hockey game and the Canadiens scoring immediately after.

Those are problems, but those guys all played a ton of minutes once again and got their team on the scoreboard. They produced. The NHL has long been a three-goal league and these guys got the Avs to that mark. A little help and they would have gotten at least one point in the standings, maybe two.

Cale Makar

I want to separate him out specifically because I thought he was by far the best player on the ice for either team. He was using his feet exceptionally well, generating shots and breaking pucks out. It seemed like every shift, and he played over 29 minutes so there were a lot of them, he had the puck and was doing something with it. It wasn’t all good, but that’s hockey for you.

When it was good, though, it was special to watch. His goal is great, his assists are great, and he could have had more. He had six shots on goal and individually had 13 shot attempts and five scoring chances. Those are not normal numbers.

It had been a while since we had seen a “Makar Game” and we got one tonight. It’s too bad it didn’t result in a win.

Ross Colton

He scored the goal right in front of the net and had an excellent opportunity with the extra attacker to tie the game. That would have been icing on a strong night for Colton, who drove the hell out of play and had a strong defensive evening.

His lack of finish has turned into a bit of a problem if he’s going to seriously push to be a top-six forward, but Colorado has to feel good about where his game is heading. He’s getting involved more consistently in the offense and his two-way game is improving.

We saw all of that tonight and it isn’t hard to wonder what might become of Colton’s production if he wasn’t playing alongside Joel Kiviranta and Logan O’Connor, two players who are better fits in pure grinder roles. Colton’s shot metrics were sparkling against the Habs and this could have been a more memorable game for him had he just lifted that last backhand attempt a little more. Oh, what could have been.

Duds

Alexandar Georgiev

This was a disappointing effort from Georgiev and it isn’t hard to see that fatigue is taking a real toll on his game. His mental fortitude has taken a beating and it looks like his in-game confidence to rebound from goals against has slipped. The second goal against tonight is a terrible goal to allow and shows a goaltender who lost his focus and even the third goal appeared to be a guy not reading the play well. He was cheating a bit and Cole Caufield picked him apart because of it.

Criticism of a goaltender is always tough because he’s the last line of defense to giving up goals and in order for pucks to even get to him, things have to break down in front of him. That’s what you pay him for, however, and this is clearly a guy who needs a rest. I might even consider sitting him for the next two games.

The penalty kill

Montreal had two chances with the man advantage and scored both times. The Avs had a big penalty problem earlier this season but the PK lifted them up to keep them in games. Lately, Colorado has been better with the discipline but the penalty kill is struggling. Since December 1, the PK is 22nd in the league at 74.6%. Before that, they were at 87.2%. This unit has room for improvement.

The goal by Caufield is pretty good coverage and more a combination of a poor read by Georgiev and Caufield being a very good shooter.

The first goal, however, is Devon Toews and Andrew Cogliano playing this very poorly.

I’m not sure which of those guys made the mistake, but it seems fair to assume that was not supposed to happen.

The game-winning goal

I didn’t love the games from Josh Manson and Sam Girard. They combined for a pretty face-palm inducing moment on the game-winning goal. What even is this?

Outworked, outplayed. Awful from both.

Unsung Hero

Jonathan Drouin

For my money, I thought Drouin was really good. He handled the atmosphere well and it seemed to feed his game. He was working hard and winning puck battles all over the boards, which is…not his reputation.

He had that look tonight like he wanted to tell the fans and management that he was still a quality NHL player. His deflection on the first goal was a good play. He keeps finding ways to be productive and overall I thought he deserved a far better fate in this one. That’s hockey, baby.

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